Ben Nicholson OM

1943-45 (St Ives, Cornwall)

1943–5

Medium
Oil paint and graphite on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 406 x 502 mm
frame: 440 x 535 x 65 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1945
Reference
N05625

Display caption

Nicholson was at the centre of the London-based British avant-garde. Shortly before the war he moved to Cornwall with his wife Barbara Hepworth and their children. To earn a living he abandoned his white reliefs of the 1930s and returned to painting landscapes, which his dealers Alex Reid & Lefevre considered easier to sell. Landscapes, particularly those of British scenes, became popular during the war. This view of the harbour at St Ives is one of a series begun in 1939. They enabled Nicholson to develop ideas of the previous decade, particularly his experimentation with the positioning of objects in space. He added the Union Jack in the foreground as a gesture to celebrate V.E. Day and the end of the war.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N05625 ST IVES, CORNWALL 1943–5

Inscr. ‘St Ives Ben Nicholson 1943–45’ on reverse.
Canvas board, 16×19 3/4 (40·5×50·5).
Purchased from the artist through the Lefevre Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1945.
Exh: Lefevre Gallery, October 1945 (61).
Repr: Horizon, XII, 1945, between pp.184 and 185; Read, I, 1948, pl.132.

A view of the harbour at St Ives, one of a series of paintings begun when the artist moved there at the outbreak of the 1939–45 War; cf. especially ‘St Ives 1943’ in the collection of A. J. McN. Reid (repr. Read, 1, 1948, pl.160). These were Nicholson's first landscapes since 1930 and are typical of his development away from the austere and monumental style of such works as ‘painting 1937’, T00050. The still life in the foreground was reworked in 1945.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II